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Keeping your team productive while they work from home

(Image credit: Image Credit: Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock)

Current circumstances have prompted organisations world-wide to quickly move to remote work and work-from-home structures. While some organisations already offered some form of remote work (69 per cent of U.S. companies) and had all the necessary infrastructure in place, many have had to scramble to pull off this new approach. Small businesses, often already operating on thin margins, may feel stretched to come up with the financial and personnel resources needed to accommodate this sudden shift to remote work.

Some government mandates have forced the issue, creating a huge new population of remote workers. Still, productivity is a primary concern when it comes to remote work. Will employees have the tools they need? Will the tools work reliably? Will my employees? Fortunately, there are ways business leaders can ensure that productivity remains unscathed even as more employees work remotely 

Business impacts of working from home 

Around the world, regular work-at-home has grown 173 per cent in the last 15 years, 11 per cent faster than the rest of the workforce. Has this helped or hindered businesses? A Stanford study found a marked increase in remote employee output—even for employees who only worked from home a few days a week. During the study, the telecommuting group displayed a 13 per cent average improvement in performance over the office-based control. In fact, over the two-year study period, remote workers gained a full day’s worth of extra productivity.

What’s more, Global Workplace Analytics estimates that a typical employer can save, on average, $11,000 per half-time telecommuter per year. Finally, 80 per cent of remote workers are happy at work, compared to only 55 per cent of on-site workers, according the findings of that same study. It’s clear that remote work, even if done on a part-time basis, benefits organisations. Employees are more productive and happier, and offering them the choice of when and where they work is a competitive advantage in the talent market.

Having the right tools in place is a key first step

While the tools to facilitate working remotely are readily available, it’s not just a simple matter of plug and play. Workers need to feel knowledgeable, connected and supported in order to do well away from the office.

Collaboration is core to success in any organisation, but it can be harder to foster when teams are working remotely. As change occurs, leaders must guide workers through that change. This includes training, and this is where the right sets of tools come in. Fortunately, there are different options for creating/bringing together teams virtually and keeping employees engaged, connected and empowered. Combining this approach with a Learning Management System (LMS) enables the training to increase skill and confidence.

Some organisations are only now realising the tremendous value of building a collaborative learning culture. A collaborative culture like this encourages open knowledge sharing among employees, creating stronger communication across distributed teams, as well as greater productivity.

In fact, some leaders have not fully understood the power of learning tools. They help to maintain an atmosphere of engagement; employees who have the opportunity to learn new skills are far more interested in contributing to business initiatives. An always-available, customisable LMS makes learning accessible and personalised for employees.

Making change positive for all

The shift to remote – whether by choice or necessity – can be a significant one for any organisation. Fear is the primary human emotion, and the fear of change is one of the biggest. Even a small disruption, like a new work environment or new software, can be unsettling, impacting an employee’s confidence and productivity.

So, suddenly working from home, cut off from all that is familiar, can take a much bigger toll than organisations may at first realise. If leaders fail to ease this transition, they may find demotivated workers, low end-user adoption and disappointing ROIs on new technological tools.

Managers can now easily communicate changes with the entire company using a digital workplace technology like Microsoft Teams or the like. Employees can feel confident with their new tools and work environment, and organisations don’t have to put a hold on their workforce development initiatives. What must be communicated, above all, is that employees are the business’s greatest asset.

Training your employees has multiple business benefits, including:

  • Maintaining visibility and supporting a sense of belonging, particularly when working remotely
  • Improving employee skills and proficiencies – good for employee and employer
  • Increasing employee engagement and retention rates
  • Increasing the success of corporate change

Prepared for success

Many experts forecast that the current crisis will lead to lasting effects in the realm of remote work. Once the tools are in place, employees are trained on them and companies see that employees not only enjoy working from home but are actually more productive, remote work policies are likely to expand. The right tools make all the difference; a digital workforce tool and an LMS are essential to success. Leaders must support their workers at every step with good communication and training. In this way, even small businesses and their workers are ready for any contingency.

The shift to remote – whether by choice or necessity – can be a significant one for any organisation. Fear is the primary human emotion, and the fear of change is one of the biggest. Even a small disruption, like a new work environment or new software, can be unsettling, impacting an employee’s confidence and productivity.

Mark Twain said, 'The only person who likes change is a baby with a wet diaper!

Mette Søs Gottlieb, Chief Commercial Officer, ELEARNINGFORCE International